Sunday, September 4, 2016

Proteomic analysis of how stink bugs mess up tomatoes!

Out of the 15 or so tomato plants we put in this spring, we've gotten something like 12 good tomatoes. A large part of the problem has been my puppy who will take bites out of any tomato he can reach but the ones he can't reach have also been messed up -- but in a weird and different way.

A little investigation on my part and it turns out its those jerks in the picture above causing the rest of the problems. That is Halyomorpha halys, or the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species brought to the U.S. in the 90s that has definitely made its way into the ecosystem of Pug Mountain.

They don't do a lot of obvious physical damage to the fruit, I guessed at first it was coincidental that I had a few wandering around. Not so.

In this PLOS One paper from Michelle Peiffer (not this person) and Gary Felton describe their investigation into this problem. They study both the effects on the tomatoes, as well as doing a proteomic investigation of the salivary glands of the pest.

The stinkbugs make little bites in the tomato and inject enzymes from their salivary glands (GROSS!) into the tomatoes that liquefy the region around the bite. Then they can easily drink the tomato.

When they look at what the salivary glands (and salivary sheaths...which go into the tomatoes (GROSS!)) they found a slew of different proteins, mostly consisting of digestive enzymes.

When they look at the plants, they find that if they take extract from the salivary sheaths and apply them to tomato leaves that they induce a stress response in the tomato plants that they can measure as well.

Solid all-around paper that has some good stats. I particularly like that they looked at both the bug and the host response. What I don't like is the fact that I've eaten 12 tomatoes that probably had bug spit inside of them. In my searching I found some good pesticide recommendations that should fix the problem...though I've still got to do something about the puppy.....

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